Kurt Helin

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Kyrie Irving FaceTimed Kobe Bryant after winning NBA title

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Kyrie Irving hugged LeBron James, Kevin Love, and the rest of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates. He bonded with coach Tyronn Lue. He got sprayed with champagne and celebrated like a champ in the wake of Cleveland winning its first NBA title.

Then, from the locker room, Irving FaceTimed Kobe Bryant.

From an interview with ThePostGame.com (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

“I actually FaceTimed Kobe after the game as soon as I got in the locker room,” Irving says. “Other than seeing my dad and my sister right after we won, FaceTiming him was just a great thing, knowing how he has won five and I just won my first. Then realizing how hard it is just to win one, my respect for him is already high, but it went to another level knowing that he’s got five of them. I’m trying to get a second one…

“[Bryant] was telling me congrats,” Irving says of the FaceTime. “I had been speaking to him throughout the entire playoffs and during the season. During the Finals, we didn’t really talk as much, because for me, I wanted to experience it full on, and if I needed his help, I would reach out to him. He would send me some texts here and there, but mainly he kind of let me be, and let me grow into my own space.”

Kobe is going to become the guru for guys seeking titles and wanting advice on overcoming the obstacles in the way of rings. A mentor role he will enjoy.

And clearly, what Kobe told Kyrie had a real impact. Kyrie had a pretty nice end to the Finals.

Dwight Howard says his back is no longer a problem

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Dwight Howard has never quite been the same player since his back surgery in 2012. As a snapshot, look at his PER the three years before in Orlando were 24, 26.1, and 24.2; the four years since it has been 19.3, 21.4, 19.2, and 18.9. Those are still strong numbers, but not the dominant numbers we had seen in Orlando. He hasn’t looked like a No. 1 offensive option anymore, and he’s also battled knee and other issues that had him missing 52 games the past two seasons in Houston.

Howard is looking to change all that, to restore his reputation in Atlanta.

And his back is not going to get in the way, he told Steve Hummer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“My back hasn’t been an issue, and I don’t think I’ll ever have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career,” he said without pause.

Even if he is healthy — and that remains a big “if,” everyone needs to see it — the question becomes will he buy into the Hawks selfless system? The Hawks success the past couple years has been based on team play, on moving and sharing the ball, on everyone accepting their role. Can Howard do that? Can he focus on defending and rebounding and not pout if he doesn’t get 15 post touches a game? Last season he led the NBA post touches, was second in the league in paint touches, and still said he didn’t get enough. When he gets them, the ball stops. Do that in Atlanta and the team takes a step backwards.

Maybe Howard has grown up and moved on, maybe he has become humble, maybe he can lead the Hawks and have them in that second tier in the East. But at this point, we all need to see it. We’ve all heard Howard say the right things before. Actions, not words.

Remembering Nate Thurmond

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The NBA lost one of the game’s greats Saturday, Hall of Famer and Warriors legend Nate Thurmond. He died at the age of 74.

Enjoy the video tribute above.

“Nate Thurmond was a giant of his era and one of the greatest players in the history of our game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “A fierce competitor with an incredible array of skills, Nate had a remarkable Hall of Fame career that included the first quadruple-double in NBA history.  Nate brought the same passion to his longtime community-relations role with the Golden State Warriors, who benefited from his deep knowledge of the game and warmth and kindness to everyone he encountered for more than 30 years.  We are deeply saddened by his loss.”

RIP Nate.

Suns’ Tyler Ulis drains buzzer-beating three, lifts team to Summer League semi-finals

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We had Kentucky’s undersized point guard Tyler Ulis as a sleeper in last June’s draft. While he’s 5’9″, he has fantastic ball handling skills, uses his quickness to get into the lane, has strong court vision, and he is a quality floor general. He’s not a future All-Star, but he can be a quality point guard off the bench.

Oh, and he can drain game-winning threes. The one above in overtime Saturday sent the Suns into the Summer League semi-Finals.

Ulis is having a strong Summer League. He’s averaged 14.1 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting, and is dishing out 6.8 assists per game. According to Synergy Sports, he has averaged using 14 possessions per game (a fairly high amount in Summer League) and is scoring a quality 1.02 points per possession.

The Suns did well with this pick.

Report: Brandon Bass reaches deal to join Clippers

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The Lakers locker room was not exactly the most mature, professional place in the NBA last season. To put it kindly. But in the middle of that were a few veterans who were good role models to any young players paying attention. Brandon Bass was one of those. He also remained a solid vet on the court — he struggled defensively early being asked to play the five off the bench, but by the end of the season he had settled into that role. He remains a solid pick-and-pop big who can score, the Lakers just gave him far fewer chances than he was used to.

Maybe the Clippers will give him more touches next season.

Bass is moving down the hall at Staples Center, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Despite a strong pursuit from the San Antonio Spurs, free agent Brandon Bass reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, league sources told The Vertical.

Bass had been deciding between veteran-minimum offers from the Spurs and Clippers, but the recruitment by Clippers coach Doc Rivers – who coached him in Boston – and several Los Angeles players swayed him. Bass resides in Los Angeles and is expected to be a trusted rotation player for Rivers.

Bass is someone Rivers can trust and will lean on off the bench. He shot 61.9 percent true shooting percentage last season and had a PER of 17.4, both comfortably above the league average. He can score from the post or pop out to the midrange.

Bass will likely come in off the bench behind Blake Griffin, getting a fair amount of minutes with g Marreese Speights at the five. Can those two, plus Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, start to shore up a bench that has been a Clippers weakness for a few seasons now?

The Clippers and the Spurs will be battling to be the second best team in the West during next regular season. Bass is going to help.